Recently we had our first “Official” membership class at the Crossings and it was a lot of fun. It was just neat to see so many new and old faces excited about what God is doing in our own little part of the Kingdom. It was neat to see people stepping up to the plate in heartfelt commitment. Now I understand that in the greater body of Christ there’s been some debate as to what to do with Church membership. Some claim it is not a Biblical principle and others hold the opposite position and see it as a great practicality for our day. On my part I lean toward the second camp, so I’ve listed 7 reasons at the bottom of the post as to why we’ve gone with a formal membership at The Crossings. But I think the greatest reason why I fall on the side of a designated church membership for the located body of Christ actually comes from a true story from our time in the former Soviet Union.
There’s been a lot of debate recently over the building of an Islamic Mosque and community center just two blocks away from ground Zero in New York. The issue took on more steam this past weekend as President Obama endorsed the group’s constitutional right to construct the building. But then on Saturday, the President was reported as saying that while he upholds that “Muslims have that right, that doesn’t mean he believes it is the right thing for them to do.” There sure are a number of ways to look at this. I understand and have felt the same knee jerk reaction of many who have pointed out that the men who flew those planes into the Twin Towers in New York were led by a strict inner interpretation of the Qur’an (Koran). So the initial thought of a group of Muslims meeting yards away from where such a tragic event happened can cause one to wince. But when the dust clears and the heart beat slows down, I believe the group in question ought to be allowed to carry on with their plans. But my main reason for such a position may not be easy to see at first. Here’s what I’m thinking.
Recently I watched ‘The Book of Eli’ with my brother and I give it two thumbs up. I probably liked it partially just because I’m a guy with a healthy hunger for adventure and sci-fi flicks, especially when there’s at least a little bit of a story to it. I thought the cinematography and visuals in the movie were wonderful. But the big draw to this story was the focus on the Bible. I’m always intrigued when Hollywood tries to honestly step into the spiritual and with Denzel Washington leading this project I knew there just might be something of substance in it. One review of the movie suggested that it was something of a “Sunday sermon wrapped in a Mad Max adventure” and that’s about right.
But it does raise questions among some Christ followers. Is it good to see and pay money for shows like this? I mean there were scenes with graphic violence, some really hard language, and at the end the Bible is meticulously placed between the Torah and the Quran. How do you even interpret that last one? Were the writers showing that the Bible was superior to the other two or more than likely just implying there was no difference between them? Yes, there were some real issues in the movie and if they are a conviction on your conscience, then you need to pass it by. But on the other hand no one should judge someone else who did watch it. For while I would not want little kids to see this show, I believe that Christ followers ought to give this sort of thing another look. Here are some reasons why.
I’m getting ready for my yearly prayer and study break which I usually take during the summer. While doing the church plant in CA I had the privilege to spend that time each year on Lake Tahoe which is one of my favorite places in the world. That was a HUGE blessing thanks to the ministry of the Barnabas Factor which offsets the cost for full-time ministers. I love the mountains. This year I will be headed to the Rockies around Denver and I’m looking forward to checking out and spending some serious solo time with God, His Word, and whatever else He has in mind. In preparation for this I got an email last week from a great guy who directs church planting in the Northern Plains of America named Mike Sojka. The link for his site is at: NPEA. Attached to his note he included a doc entitled “Reasons for Unanswered Prayers” which I’ve included below. I thought that was a great resource to help people get focused for such ventures. From my observation, we all need to take a moment from time to time to weigh our motives and this tool seemed like a good start. What would you add as a discipline or exercise in preparation for a spiritual retreat?
Well we finished up Kid’s Kamp last night at The Crossings and it was GREAT. The Kamp was an excellent opportunity to plant the loving seeds of Christ in the hearts of our young people in our community. Jesus loved and loves Children and in fact taught that unless we change and become like these little children we will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Wow, what’s that all about? While there are many reasons, it seems like the biggest one is just the fact that these children don’t front any arguments and simply accept Christ through faith. They hear and believe. I think that is one of the reasons why every church that is truly fruitful in Kingdom advancement has a powerful children’s ministry. So I’m thankful for our efforts at Cypress Crossing to reach and minister to the kidos.
But I’m also thankful for a guy most of you won’t know named Morris. I met Morris for the first time on a college inner city trip in Atlanta back in the spring of 89. Then I ended up going to school with him when I transferred to Ozark Christian College that fall. But Morris went home to be with Christ this past month after faithfully serving Christ for a number of years in Honduras.
I love the languages. I love the diversity. I love the Kingdom of Heaven. One of the things that really fascinate me about the Kingdom of Heaven is that it is made up of folks from all over the world and of every ethnic, race, economic, and social class. This was certainly true of the church that Debi and I planted in Northern California back in 04. I still remember getting together with believers from the former Soviet Union and lifting up prayers in English, Russian, and Kazak. This was the picture we had today at our weekly prayer meeting at The Crossings. We have begun some initial conversations with a Hispanic church plant in our area about a potential partnership and some of those folks came today. We had a great time. From The Corssings, we had people from America, (Texas), Trinidad, and Honduras. We had representatives from El Salvador and Guatemala from the Hispanic church plant. Though from different nationalities, we were all the same at the throne of Christ worshiping together and interceding together. It all reminds me of what John witnessed 2000 years ago as recorded in the Book of Revelation, 7:9-10
“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
Wow, that’s amazing. It speaks again that the hope for unity in the world is not the UN, but the love to Christ. Yup, I really do love the Kingdom. “Slava Boga!”
Deb and I still have a bunch of really great friends back in Nor. Cal who will always be a part of our lives and the Kingdom effort. One friend that is somewhat new to me is a great guy named Troy who has been involved in church planting and discipleship for a while and is really striving to know God. Troy and Dawn live on the edge for Christ and I really appreciate their wisdom and input. So, I was strolling down one of Troy’s blogs yesterday and came across a recent post he put up. I thought that it really fit some of the discussions we’ve had on Kingdomology and the CHURCH. In particular, do we really need to go to church every Sunday or is that just something archaic and for our grandparents. I’ve got some thoughts, but check out Troy’s post, chew on it for a bit, and I’ll get back to you in a few days.
I’ve always said that I could eat Tex-Mex food two or three times a week and I think that’s probably true. But tonight was a dinner full of memories as we got together with some friends in North Houston for Borscht and Blinchiki. Our chef, Oksana, is from Uzbekistan which used to be part of the Soviet Union. So it was a lot of fun trying to remember our Russian and the names of the great dishes we had while living in Moscow back in the mid 90s. I love trying foods from all over the world. Probably the worst thing I’ve ever eaten was on a college internship in Chile back in 88 and I’d say that the best food I’ve ever had was in Nagaland, India. But I think one of the greatest parts of these fun food festivities is not just the palate, but the friendships, culture, and Kingdom experiences that come along with them. Cultural because we are all different and I love that. But from the Kingdom standpoint, it is a reminder that the Kingdom of Heaven is not an American thing, but a God thing. The real Kingdom of God, or Heaven, is something that Jesus said is within us. It stretches all over the world and across time. It will continue to expand in the hearts and minds of God’s children until Christ comes back. So in a very real sense, the Kingdom is all over the world and transcends all cultures. Having grown up in Texas, you could say that Tex-Mex really is a “national” or cultural reality for me. But because the Kingdom of God is so big, there is really no one “national food” for Kingdom citizens. But rather, it’s kind of a multi course banquet. Now THAT smells good. Fish Tacos anyone?
There’s a lot you have to say and I like your honesty and being upfront. No need to play games here. So with everything you wrote, (and didn’t write) we’ll just tackle one point at a time.
As I noted earlier, there exists a counterfeit church today which is quite foreign from the real deal. But there is always an element of the real CHURCH in the world no matter what kind of institution is being propagated. You can read more about the authentic church here in Kingdomology under the CHURCH page. But in short, the Church has nothing to do with buildings or institutions. The authentic Church is more about God’s people called to him. When it comes to people, yes, you are quite right, there are a lot of people who make great claims about being good “Christians” but don’t seem to be any different than the rest of the world other than just being a religious pain in the rear because of self-righteousness. I get that. But here are some other points to consider.
Like a number of Christian ministers I know, it seems like a part of my spiritual mentorship actually comes from dead guys from the past. Yes I know; that sounds exciting doesn’t it? But by that I mean being able to glean from the writings of Christ followers in times gone by who really walked with God. Some of the men that I still read from and about are Spurgeon, Moody, Finney, Taylor, Muller and Bonhoeffer. There are other guys who I don’t read as much from, but still have a profound influence on my kingdom thinking. One of those guys is Oswald Chambers of whom I read this morning before really hitting the day. In a devotional book I got from a friend back in CA he gives a commentary over 1 Peter 2:21 which really applies to people who are engaged in serious ministry projects. The gist of the text deals with the issue of suffering for Christ, which is a reality in authentic Kingdom living. I’ve pasted the text and commentary below. I hope it’s helpful and challenging.